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MADDOW: Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Steve Israel from the great state of New York, chair of the Democratic House Campaign Committee.
Congressman Israel, thanks very much for joining us.
ISRAEL: Happy anniversary. Three years on the air. Congratulations.
MADDOW: Thank you very much. I forgot and got a nice love letter to the show, written to me by my dear old dad this morning, which reminded me about it. It was nice. Thank you.
When Republicans talk about Medicare, their policy as far as I can tell is to kill Medicare. But what they say is they want to save it or strengthen it. Now, we`ve got the president saying he, too, wants to strengthen Medicare.
Does that give you the willies at all?
ISRAEL: No, not all. Look, we have always said consistently from day one that we will negotiate to improve Medicare, reform Medicare, strengthen Medicare. We will not negotiate to end Medicare.
It`s not what the Republicans say. It is what they have done. Paul Ryan budget ends the guaranteed Medicare benefit. It turns Medicare into a coupon program.
And so, Democrats united, Democrats in the House, Democrats in the Senate and Democrats in the White House, that we are open to ideas for efficiencies in Medicare to extend its solvency. But we will not negotiate
what Republicans have been trying to do 20 years now, and that is to end Medicare.
MADDOW: In terms of that as a potent political issue, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about this, you`re in charge of converting that issue into electoral gains for Democrats. And I know you`re confident
you can do that.
Does that also apply to Social Security? Are Democrats planning to draw a bright line between a Democratic plan to protect Social Security and Republicans putting it at risk?
ISRAEL: Well, this election in 2012 is going to be very much a referendum. Do you want a crowd that is dedicated to terminating Medicare and privatizing Social Security? Or do you want a majority of Democrats
who are going to promote pro-growth agenda, create jobs and protect Medicare and Social Security?
And I have to say, Rachel, that we found a new ally in this fight, surprises me, but Rick Perry. Rick Perry called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. I have to give Rick Perry credit. At least he`s honest. He has
unmasked what the Republicans sought to do.
They talk about strengthening Social Security. Rick Perry told the truth. They believe that it is a Ponzi scheme and they want to end Social Security. And the American people are going to face that contrast and I`m confident they`re going to make the right decisions.
MADDOW: The Beltway media is so much better at covering conflict among politicians that it is at covering policy. I feel like we also got a this great blessing when Mitt Romney attacked Rick Perry for having said
that because it made the Beltway media start covering this issue of how at risk Social Security would be under a particular Republican politician.
My question to you, though, is Mitt Romney`s position on Social Security substantively any different than Rick Perry`s, or is he planning on putting it at as much risk as Rick Perry would?
ISRAEL: Well, look, Mitt Romney can say what he wants, dance around it. The fact of the matter is, the Ryan budget that passed the House of Representatives and has been embraced by every single Republican
presidential candidate ends Medicare. It turns it into a coupon. It costs the average American senior an additional $6,000.
So, they can speak in sound bytes, but I think the American people are going to hold them accountable not to their words but their actions. The Ryan budget, as a matter of action, that passed the House of
Representatives, endorsed by every single Republican presidential candidate, ends the guaranteed Medicare benefit.
MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic House Campaign Committee -- thanks for joining us tonight, sir.
ISRAEL: Thank you.
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